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Women's Majority Union publishes Lilith's Manifesto, a women's liberation document, in the spring of 1969.

HistoryLink.org Essay 2321 : Printer-Friendly Format

In the fall of 1968, Women's Majority Union, a Seattle women's liberation organization, publishes the first issue of Lilith. In sping 1969, Louise Crowley, active in the group that produces Lilith, writes "Lilith's Manifesto." This women's liberation document, signed by 16 women and two men, contains a lengthy criticism of the position of the Black Panther Party on women's liberation. It was written in the spring of 1969 just following the Oakland United Front Against War and Fascism Conference.

Following is the complete text:

Lilith's Manifesto

"To his credit (although in hackneyed, latter-day marxist jargon of such a vivid writer) Eldridge Cleaver has said again what needed saying -- what has been said again and again almost as often as it needed saying, until it has become an incantation: We must root out all manifestations of male chauvanism from the vanguard party. Hail Mary Mother of God, Blessed Art thou among Women ... We must root out all manifestations of male chauvanism from the ranks of the vanguard party ... andblessedisthefruitofthywombjesus ... wemustrootoutallmanifestationsof-malechauvanism fromtheranksofthevanguardparty .. Hari Krishna.

"This is where I came in. It was William Z. Foster saying it then. Earl Browder said it too. And Gene Dennis. Gus Hall. In other left parties, other leaders.

"In Oakland the Black Panther minister of education has announced, that now the ritual has been properly performed the demons are exorcised, or at least in flight and all is, or at least will be well.

"And Panther Roberta Alexander has spelled out, again, just how much it still means, just how much it has always meant: "the most destructive aspect of male supremacy is that it has divided people who ought to be united."

"Now, I suppose, the Panthers can get on with their really important business.

"Once upon a time, I've been told, there was a women in the then-vanguard party who felt a need deeper than that of spot welding a superficial unity around current issues. She disappeared and has never been heard from since. Presumably the earth has swallowed her or maybe it was the East River. At any rate, such foolhardy hubris was not repeated, and radical women have since disciplined themselves, with only minor grumblings ("bitchings"), to accept the incantation as a promissory note on pie to be granted in some future socialist sky, reward for humble performance their alloted tasks in kitchens of radical halls and at the typewriters of radical offices or for their zeal for organizing their fellow-women to support prevailing campaigns.

"So, in Oakland, we get told again to go the back of the bus. Some of us (to avert disruption or just out of longstanding habit) went back, and some of us just walked away, either in discouragement or disgust, or (those who were young enough) in disillusionment. Well, damn it, I'm not going back, because I've no faith in the unity that's sought through yielding; and I'm not going to walk away because I'm as much a part of this revolution as you are and maybe, at this moment in history, more. Here I stand. You're going to have to cope with me, brother. Now.

THEREFORE BE IT MANIFEST:

"1. The biological dichotomy of sex needs no reinforcement by differential cultural mores. Whatever qualities pertain to humanity pertain to it as a species. If assertiveness, for example is a virtue in man, it is a virtue also in women; if forebearance is a virtue in woman, it is likewise a virtue in man. (If you brother, can't get a hard-on for a woman who doesn't grovel at your feet, that's your hang-up; and sister, if you can't turn on to a man who won't club you and drag you off by the hair, that's yours. Keep your hangups the hell out of this revolution.)

"2. The mutilation of individual whole human beings to fit the half-sized procrustes' bed society assigns selectively to "men" and "women" serves a purpose far more contrary to the pursuit of freedom than simple divisiveness: because all persons can be consigned to one or the other category and their personalities trimmed, by differential social experience, to fit the mold considered appropriate to their sex, none can excape; half the human race receives indocrination and training in the exercise of dominance over others, while the other half receives reciprical conditioning to servility, all being given to presuppose that a pattern of authority and submission to authority is the universal, inevitable, and biologically determined order of social relationships.

"3. All known societies have thus utilized the clear and all-inclusive dichotomy of sex as the chief vehicle for early and continuous limitation on the essentially liberatory free play of human imaginings and aspirations, perverting a benign natural phenomenon to service of the social status quo. Bourgeois society only inherited this tradition -- anti-revolutionary by definition -- and modified it to suit the special needs and conditions of capitalism. Socialist societies have done no more than modify it likewise to their ends. The pursuit of freedom demands that it be utterly transcended.

"4. By the nature of revolution as such, not all the forces engaged in it are committed to it fullest possible consummation. That commitment, however, defines the vanguard, whatever other elements may, in the vicissitudes of movement, usurp or be displaced into its position. Should leadership be retained by forces of but limited vision, the revolution must be cut tragically short of its full potential, for committment to the lesser goals such a pseudo-vanguard does envision will turn against the revolution at the very moment it stands poised to overreach them.

"5. It is unthinkable that the revolution now in progress be allowed to suffer such curtailment. Heretofore, disappointed survivors of a truncated revolution have known, at least, that the seeds of future results remained; no power was capable of exterminating them. The proliferating technology of biochemical manipulation now robs us of that bitter consolation; no state power, capitalist or socialist, is to be entrusted with it; we can afford no less than total liberation. This revolution has got to go for broke: Power to no one, and to everyone: to each the power over his/her own life, and no others. -- L.C.

Louise Crowley
Dotty DeCoster
Madelyn Scott
Karen Johansen
Ruth McIntosh
Sue D. Gottfried
George Crowley
Flo Ware
Shirley Nelson
Erica Gottfried
Karen Ennis
Jenny Amaia
Janet Hews
Alice J. Armstrong
Gordon Nelson
Dorothy Benedict
Mary Gibson
Sheila Kritchman"

Sources:
"Lilith's Manifesto," was published in the spring of 1969 as a two-sided mimeographed sheet, and reprinted in Lilith No. 3 [published in Seattle in September 1970, from internal evidence]. The original manifesto, and reprint in Lilith No. 3, in possession of Dotty DeCoster, Seattle, April 2000.


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Image from first Lilith, a Seattle women's liberation magazine, fall 1968
Courtesy Dotty DeCoster


 
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